Yes, Manzanilla can seem even drier than Fino. (It isn't, but it can SEEM that way.) My favorite is Hildalgo's "La Gitana" Manzanilla. But a "softer" style is an aged Manzanilla like that from Lustau's Almancenista range, their Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlúcar 1/80 Jurado. You also might like Hidalgo's Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, an aged Manzanilla from a single vineyard.
Other DRY Sherries worth seeking out from Lustau include (but are not limited to):
In the PUERTO FINO category:
Lustau Almacenista Fino del Puerto 1/143 Obregon
Lustau Solera Reserva Puerto Fino
In the FINO category:
Lustau Almacenista Amontillado Fino de Jerez 1/47 Florido
Lustau Solera Reserva Fino "Jarana"
In the AMONTILLADO category:
Lustau VOS 20 yr old Dry Amontillado
Lustau Almacenista Amontillado de Jerez 1/30 Florido
Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado "Los Arcos"
In the PALO CORTADO category:
Lustau VOS 20 yr old Palo Cortado
Lustau Almacenista Palo Cortado Vides 1/50
Lustau Solera Reserva Palo Cortado Sherry "Peninsula"
In the OLOROSO category:
Lustau VOS 20 yr old Dry Oloroso
Lustau Solera Gran Reserva Very Rare Oloroso Sherry "Emperatriz Eugenia"
Lustau Almacenista Oloroso Pata de Gallina 1/38 Jarana
Impressive list, Jason. I must wholeheartedly agree on the 'La Gitana' call. That is truly one of the most stunning bargains in the whole world of wine. You can find bottles of it for $5-8 and it is absolutely remarkable stuff. It's not just a QPR play...it's that good.
The key with Finos and Manzanillas are freshness. These are not bottles for aging. If you look, you can often find freshness dates. Since these types of wines aren't currently fashionable, turnover at wine stores can be slow. Maybe that was the problem with the Tio Pepe? Best advice is to try and find a store with turnover so they have the freshest bottles possible to preserve the delicate aromatics.
Like Jason, I'm also a great fan of Lustau's "Los Arcos" (bread and caramel on the nose, well-defined and fine-boned palate, with walnuts, apple and croissant. Acid sweetness on the long finish).
It seems impossible to go wrong by picking up anything produced by Lustau, unless you find their style a little too austere.
I just wrote a column reviewing the various merits of some Lustau amontillado vs. Sandeman and Savory & James. If you are interested, it is here:
The Short Cellar
re: Matthew Sullivan
Hey, Matthew, I just took a look at your brief reviews, and on the whole I'd say that they were on the mark. My only reservation is that I haven't tasted the Sandeman. But here's a question for you, since you suffer the same blessing and curse as do I (the LCBO): If not S&J, what general listing sherry would you buy, since we can't always get Lustau products? BTW, I think that the prices in your column for the Lustaus are for 375mL bottles, not 750mL, like the S&J.